Coming into the 2019 season, the Reds had one fairly obvious weakness in the bullpen: they had only one sure-fire left-hander in Amir Garrett. Wandy Peralta and Cody Reed were the other options on the 40-man roster. Buddy Boshers and Ian Krol (Remember them? Didn’t think so.) were brought in on minor-league deals as long shots to make the team.
Ultimately, the Reds signed Zach Duke to a one-year, $2 million deal before spring training. He was supposed to be the LOOGY (left-handed one out guy) out of the bullpen. Duke’s stint in Cincinnati didn’t make it through the first half of the season. Peralta also made the Opening Day roster, but he has never been a shutdown pitcher against lefties. When healthy, he’s dealt with the inconsistency that has plagued him his whole career.
The ineffectiveness of Duke and Peralta has left Garrett to pull a lot of weight against left-handed hitters in critical situations. In medium- and high-leverage situations, no Reds reliever has faced more lefties.
- Amir Garrett: 56
- Raisel Iglesias: 53
- David Hernandez: 40
- Michael Lorenzen: 37
- Zach Duke: 21
Garrett has, of course, dominated hitters on both sides of the plate. Lefties have had virtually no chance against him. They’re slashing .197/.287/.254 with a 38.8% strikeout rate. If you prefer expected metrics, he fares equally well in those. Lefties have a .187 xBA, .253 xSLG, and .249 xwOBA when they face Garrett.
With the prized southpaw on the injured list, however, the Reds currently have all right-handers in the ‘pen. Among them, only Jared Hughes (.139/.220/.222) has performed well against left-handed hitters this season, though David Hernandez has strong peripherals (40.0 K%, 3.1 BB%). Raisel Iglesias, Matt Bowman, and Robert Stephenson have been particularly poor against lefties. Peralta may return from the IL as soon as this Friday; he threw an inning in a rehab assignment last week. Again, he’s hardly a solution, as he holds a career 4.76 xFIP and .324 wOBA against left-handers.
Even when Garrett comes back, the Reds need some reinforcements to get the likes of Christian Yelich, Eric Thames, Kyle Schwarber, and Mike Moustakas out. Fortunately, they already have one — and he was one of the pitchers passed over for a big-league job during spring training. (No, it’s not Buddy Boshers.)
Cody Reed has been on the injured list in Triple-A since late May with a sprained MCL. But he’s throwing again, and as of July 4, he was scheduled to start pitching within “a couple of weeks.” When healthy this season, Reed has dominated. In 20.2 innings at Triple-A Louisville, he has a 2.61 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 3.22 xFIP, and 31.3% strikeout rate. He’s thrown another 6.1 innings in the majors and allowed only one run and one walk while striking out seven.
Most importantly, he’s owned lefties. This isn’t a new development, either. Here are his season and career numbers at both levels of professional baseball:
Reed’s repertoire is quite similar to Garrett’s. The latter has a little more velocity, but Reed’s fastball has ticked up as a reliever. In his three outings with the Reds this season, Reed’s fastball averaged 94.3 mph and touched 96.1. Both relievers possess sweeping sliders as their best weapons. Reed’s slider has held major-league lefties to the following in his sporadic stints with the Reds since 2016:
- .200 BA
- .191 xBA
- .250 SLG
- .294 xSLG
- .210 wOBA
- .229 xwOBA
- 35.9% whiff rate
But the pitch’s effectiveness isn’t exclusive to left-handed hitters. Righties also have a hard time doing much with it (.197 xBA, .345 xSLG, .258 xwOBA). As a reliever, he could potentially feature his slider even more to get hitters on both sides of the plate out consistently. That would only increase David Bell’s flexibility with his bullpen, a luxury he didn’t have with the LOOGY Duke. Garrett has taken this slider-heavy approach, with the breaking ball accounting for nearly 60% of his pitches this season.
Reed has yet to receive an extended shot in the major leagues, largely due to his own performance. He finally seems to be coming into his own as a reliever at 26 years old, and it couldn’t come at a better time for the Reds, who could really use another southpaw in the bullpen. In hindsight, Reed should’ve been in the majors from the beginning of the season. But once he recovers from his knee injury, he’ll hopefully stay with the Reds permanently.